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Simply layer Parma Ham, ricotta cheese, tomato and fresh basil inside squares of rustic foccacia bread. Secure the layers with a cocktail stick and offer to your hungry guests!

Parma Ham is a completely natural food with nothing added except salt.Making a Parma Ham is a long and painstaking process. The curing is controlled carefully so that the ham absorbs only enough salt to preserve it to retain its distinctive sweet flavour.

Prosciutto di Parma, is produced in the hills surrounding the Italian town of Parma. The air in the Parmesan hills is dry and sweet-smelling with breezes from the Apennine mountains, creating perfect environmental conditions for a natural 'drying' of the hams.

The unique taste of Parma Ham is dependent on the traditional production process passed down from Roman times, carefully controlled by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. Only hams that have passed stringent curing regulations approved by the EU can be awarded the stamp of the Ducal crown - a fivepointed coronet logo with PARMA in the centre which is branded on to the ham's skin. The Ducal crown is now a certification trademark.

1 loaf focaccia, flavoured with peppers, tomatoes or herbs 100g (4oz) ricotta cheese 4 tomatoes, sliced 12 basil leaves 6 slices Parma Ham, cut in half - Bake the focaccia according to pack instructions, if necessary, or warm it in an oven pre-heated to 190C /fan oven 170C /gasmark 5 for six to eight minutes. Cool slightly, then cut into 12 squaresmeasuring about 4 x 4cm (1 ' inch) each.

- Slice each focaccia square into three pieces, then spread the bottom layer with ricotta cheese and put a slice of tomato and a basil leaf on top. Place the middle layer of bread on top, and then add a folded slice of Parma Ham. Sandwich together with the top piece of focaccia, then skewer with a cocktail stick or mini bamboo kebab stick to keep them secure. Serve at once.

Cook's tips: Look out for any tasty Italian bread for making these delicious nibbles - you could use ciabatta instead. Try using thin slices of mozzarella cheese instead of ricotta - just keep the theme Italian!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 4, 2009
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